Tags: melanoma | sunbathing | moles | skin cancer

Sunbathing Risks Overstated, Scientists Say

Thursday, 16 Jul 2009 10:21 AM


The main cause of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is not too much sunbathing but the number of moles a person has, according to a new British study. An international team of scientists led by King’s College London concluded that warnings about sunbathing are scaring people unnecessarily and drawing their attention away from monitoring suspicious moles, which the researchers say are the real risk factor for malignant melanoma.

The study identified two genes that control how many moles a person will have, and how likely they are to get skin cancer. Professor of genetic epidemiology Tim Spector of King’s College told the UK’s TimesOnline, “The number of moles you have is one of the strongest risk factors of melanoma—stronger than sunshine. This paper shows that we found two important genes that control the number of moles you have. Those genes also give you an extra risk of melanoma.”

The authors of the study say that while sunshine can trigger melanoma, it is responsible for only a small proportion of cases. They believe health warnings should be targeted to people who have more than 100 moles, and they also believe everyone should be taught how to check moles for changes in color, size, and shape.

Dermatologist Dr. Veronique Bataille, who is also a researcher at King’s College London, said, “As a dermatologist working in the melanoma field for nearly 20 years, I feel quite strongly that there is always an overemphasis on sunshine. You often read that nearly all melanomas are caused by sunshine—which is not supported by the evidence. The more research we do, the more we realize that sunshine is a small part of the puzzle. In any population you study across the world, if you are ‘moley’ it is a very steady risk factor for melanoma, and it doesn’t make any difference whether you live in Glasgow or Sydney or LA.”

Other experts say, though, that the new research does not outweigh past evidence showing that most cancer of the skin begins with overexposure to ultraviolet rays. They emphasize that melanoma does not have to begin in a mole—it can occur on normal-appearing skin, and can happen to people who have few moles or none at all. They also point out two other important risk markers for melanoma, fair skin and red hair.

It is possible to treat melanoma, usually by prompt removal of a questionable mole. However, melanoma is responsible for most deaths caused by skin cancer and accounts for about ten percent of all cases of skin cancer.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute estimates that among Americans in 2009 there will be 68,720 cases of melanoma and 8,650 deaths.



© HealthDay

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The main cause of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is not too much sunbathing but the number of moles a person has, according to a new British study. An international team of scientists led by King’s College London concluded that warnings about sunbathing are scaring people unnecess
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